Klamath Basin News, Tuesday, 1/25 – Oregonians Getting Booster Vaccines But Covid Cases Skyrocketing with 19,400 New Cases, 17 New Deaths in the State

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Air Stagnation Advisory until Saturday, January 29, 04:00AM.

Today Sunny, with a high near 49. East northeast winds to 5 mph. Overnight clear with a low around 23.

Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 51.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 52.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.
Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.

Today’s Headlines

A man was arrested after allegedly shooting into a Klamath Falls home on Saturday night. Shane Whynot, 30, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, four counts of unlawful use of a weapon, disorderly conduct, reckless endangering, felon in possession of a weapon, criminal mischief and possession of meth.

According to the Klamath Falls Police Department, officers responded Saturday, Jan. 22 to a report of a drive by shooting that had previously occurred in the 200 block of North Eldorado Avenue.

During the investigation, officers confirmed that a subject had fired four rounds at a house, which was occupied at the time by an adult man and a 4-year-old child. No one was struck by the bullets, according to police.

Officers were able to pull video footage from the surrounding area and developed a suspect vehicle, which was later found in the 1900 block of Burns Street. Whynot was also there. During a search of his vehicle, officers found empty shell casings, additional live ammunition and a stolen pistol of the type used during the shooting. They also found a dealer quantity of suspected methamphetamine in the vehicle. This incident remains under investigation.

If you have additional information regarding this case, please contact Klamath Falls Police Department at 541-883-5336. Anonymous information can be left at the tip line: 541-883-5334.

Oregon reports 19,400 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 17 new deaths

There are 17 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,953, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at today. OHA reported 19,400 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the state total to 590,270.

Klamath County reported 448 new cases over the weekend while Jackson County reported 1,113.

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 1,045, which is 19 more than yesterday. There are 161 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is two more than yesterday.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (41), Benton (461), Clackamas (1,532), Clatsop (104), Columbia (165), Coos (204), Crook (200), Curry (64), Deschutes (1,402), Douglas (228), Gilliam (14), Grant (36), Harney (28), Hood River (64), Jackson (1,113), Jefferson (105), Josephine (343), Klamath (448), Lake (4), Lane (2,048), Lincoln (213), Linn (834), Malheur (188), Marion (1,940), Morrow (71), Multnomah (2,940), Polk (425), Sherman (37), Tillamook (66), Umatilla (541), Union (125), Wallowa (28), Wasco (209), Washington (2,722) and Yamhill (457).

More Oregonians receive COVID-19 booster doses

Oregon continues to move closer to meeting Gov. Kate Brown’s goal, announced Dec. 17, of getting 1 million more people in the state a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January.

When the challenge began, 949,749 people had received a booster dose. Since then, 451,268 Oregonians have received a booster.

As of today, Oregon needs 548,732 people to get a booster to reach the goal and make our state safer from the Omicron variant.

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An air stagnation advisory remains in effect until 4 am Saturday for much of our area, including the Klamath Basin.

A period of stagnant air with light winds and poor mixing is expected. The advisory is in effect for Portions of northern California and south central and southwest Oregon, mostly in valley locations. It is expected to last until at least 4 AM PST Saturday. State air quality agencies highly recommend that no outdoor burning occur and that residential wood burning devices be limited as much as possible.

According to state air quality agencies, prolonged periods of stagnant air can hold pollutants close to the ground where people live and breathe.

Check with your local burn agency for any current restrictions in the Klamath Basin.

The Sons of Norway, Ronald Lodge continues to give back to the Klamath Falls Community.

In January, the organization donated $2,000 to three organizations: $1,600 to United Way, $200 to the animal shelter and $200 to the Klamath Museum.

All funds were raised through their annual Lefsa sales. President Diann Kerr said the organization takes “pride in our traditions and supporting organizations that help our community members.” If you are interested in learning more about Scandinavian culture and volunteer work, consider joining Sons of Norway.

For more information contact Laila Griffith at 541-883-7810.

Around the state of Oregon

The Oregon Health Authority held two public hearings Monday to discuss putting masking inside schools and health care settings in place indefinitely, as well as to take public comment on vaccine requirements for educators and health care workers.

If the proposals are adopted, health officials say they wouldn’t be in place forever. The idea is to keep them in place so the state doesn’t have to extend the current rules every 180 days. Officials said they would repeal them once they are deemed no longer necessary. Last week, the OHA held a similar meeting to discuss making the state’s indoor mask mandate permanent.

Monday’s hearings focused on masking and vaccine requirements in schools and health care settings.

Medford Woman Finds Apple Airtag Tracking Device Attached To Her Car

The AirTag is a device designed by Apple to help people find objects that are likely to go missing, like their keys or wallet. Anyone can conveniently use their phone to track the AirTag and find the lost object.

Though AirTags are supposed to be a benign help to the user, there are growing reports that the devices are being used for stalking and other unwanted tracking, including potentially marking cars for theft.

Nicole Parker lives in Medford. Over the past weekend, she received a notification on her phone indicating that an AirTag was being used at her location. It wasn’t hers.

Parker said that she went to a neighbor for help. They looked over the map on her phone and realized that the tracker had been with her all day.

“When I would ping it, I couldn’t hear it . . . and it was following me,” she said.

Parker kept pinging the AirTag and went out by her car, and eventually she started hearing a sound emanating from underneath. She found the device zip-tied near a wheel.

Parker reached out to police, who came and took the AirTag. At this point she still doesn’t know who was trying to track her.

AirTags are designed to “discourage unwanted tracking,” according to Apple, which is why Parker’s iPhone notified her that the device seemed to be following her, presenting her with a map of its location.

The company says that the AirTag will start making a sound if you haven’t found it “after a while.” But if Parker had owned an Android instead of an iPhone, she may not have realized that it was stashed under her car as quickly as she did.

Apple’s device also purports to be the safest version of this kind of device — there are a number of other, similar products that may not have the feature notifying someone when they are being tracked.

Fatal Crash on Interstate 5-Jackson County

On Monday, January 24, 2022 at approximately 12:25 AM, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near milepost 24. 

Preliminary investigation revealed a northbound Toyota 4Runner, operated by Renee Sliger (19) of Medford, drifted off the roadway and rolled. Sliger was ejected from the vehicle.

Sliger was transported to Rogue Regional Medical Center but had sustained fatal injuries and was later pronounced deceased. 

OSP was assisted by Talent Police Department and ODOT. Oregon State Police

Fatal Crash on Hwy 199-Josephine County

On January 24, 2022 at about 12:48 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to the report of a two-vehicle crash on Highway 199 near milepost 10. 

Preliminary investigation revealed that a white Toyota Corolla, driven by Eddie Bartley (72) of Grants Pass was driving north on Highway 199 and crossed into the oncoming, southbound lane of travel for unknown reasons. The Corolla impacted the front driver side of a blue Hyundai Elantra, driven by Kelly Martin (49) of Dallas. 

Bartley sustained fatal injuries as a result of the crash and was pronounced deceased. Martin suffered severe injuries and was transported to Rogue Regional Hospital by ambulance. 

Hwy 199 was completely closed for approximately 1 hour following the crash and traffic was reduced and controlled by Oregon Department of Transportation for approximately 3 hours upon opening the highway.

OSP was assisted by the Oregon Department of Transportation, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office and Rural Metro Fire. Oregon State Police

Job Training Plan Focus Of 2022 Oregon Legislative Session

What could be Govenor Brown’s last policy initiative as governor, a $200 million plan to boost training for future jobs in construction, health care and manufacturing, will be one of the top items for the new session of the Oregon Legislature.

Lawmakers will open the 35-day session on Monday, Feb. 1 as Oregon’s top political leadership undergoes major changes. It will be the final scheduled session for Brown, a Democrat who is barred by term limits from running again, and for Peter Courtney, the veteran Democrat from Salem who has led the Senate as its president for a record two decades. He is retiring after a record 38 years as a legislator.

This session will be new for Rep. Dan Rayfield, a Democrat from Corvallis who has been nominated to succeed Tina Kotek of Portland after her record nine years as House speaker. Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend and Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson of Prineville led minority Republicans for the first time during the Dec. 13 special session. For Democratic Rep. Julie Fahey of Eugene, it will be her first session as majority leader.

Brown previewed the plan at the annual Oregon Business Plan conference on Dec. 6. One of the conference sponsors is the Oregon Business Council, which a decade ago set a goal of a 10% statewide poverty rate by 2020. Oregon’s actual rate in 2021 was 12.44%, slightly less than the national average of 13.4%.

What the plan does

The plan will draw $200 million from the state’s tax-supported general fund and federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act, President Joe Biden’s pandemic recovery plan that Congress passed almost a year ago.

Major spending categories are:

• $92.5 million to expand existing programs. Among them: $35 million for local workforce programs; $20 million for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs; $17 million for Oregon’s 17 community colleges, and $10.5 million for youth training.

• $95 million for competitive grants to organizations.

• $10 million for navigation centers, which link workers with support services (emergency food, housing, child care, health care, transportation) to keep them employed.

• $1 million for coordination of the three specific economic sectors targeted in the plan: Construction, health care and manufacturing.

Though Oregon has regained many of the jobs lost during the onset of the pandemic in spring 2020, “these are aimed at ensuring that Oregon’s recovery is equitable,” said Jennifer Purcell, Brown’s workforce policy adviser.

“The disruption created by the pandemic has exacerbated the workforce crisis, as well as highlighted significant disparities in how our workforce system serves Oregon’s communities of color,” which Purcell said have been affected to a greater extent than Oregon as a whole. “Barriers to job readiness and career advancement persist, which is made more difficult by a workforce system that is often siloed, inefficient, and difficult to navigate.”

Unfilled job openings

Gail Krumenauer, economist for the Oregon Employment Department, spoke briefly to the House committee. In a Jan. 19 conference call with reporters, she touched on why there are shortages now.

The agency reported 103,000 job vacancies in the private sector in the final quarter of 2021 — down from a record 107,000 in the previous quarter — and that employers said 76% were considered hard to fill. (The previous record was 67,000 jobs in summer 2017.)

“We are seeing this extraordinary level of hiring across the United States,” Krumenauer said. “There are simply not enough available workers for this near-record level of job openings that employers are trying to fill.”

For every 10 jobs open, she said, seven workers are potentially available. Average starting pay in the last quarter of 2021 was $21 per hour, a 14% increase over the previous year, even taking inflation into account.

“There is not one thing that can magically be done to help all the workers find jobs with employers to supply all the workers they need,” David Gerstenfeld, the acting director of the Employment Department, told reporters.

“Some people do not recognize they have transferable skills,” he said. “We can help them fill a gap so they can move into some of those high-demand occupations.”

Plan targets sectors

Krumenauer said each of five sectors accounted for at least 10,000 job openings — and construction, health care and manufacturing were three of them, the very ones targeted by the plan. The others were retail trade, and leisure and hospitality, which covers hotels, restaurants and bars.

“Oregon’s health care sector has had the largest need for workers from at least 2013,” when the agency began its quarterly survey of job vacancies. “It has been a larger and growing sector, and the (aging) demographics of this state really show we are likely to need more health-care workers. What the pandemic has done is intensify and reveal labor shortages.”

She said such jobs as home health and personal care workers and nurse practitioners — the most in demand — are more likely than other jobs to require credentials or training beyond high school.

She said the continuing pandemic has also prompted many health-care workers to quit altogether or take less demanding jobs in other fields.

For workforces in construction and manufacturing, she said, they share one common issue: Retirees are not being replaced by younger workers with the necessary skills.

“We see a lot of replacement openings into the future,” she said, noting that Oregon will need 5,000 more workers in manufacturing by 2030.

As for construction, Krumenauer said the demand for housing — which failed to keep pace with population growth during the past decade — and other projects will keep that sector busy. She said Oregon construction employment is up 61% from a decade ago, and is at its peak.

“The difficulty there is similar to what we saw beforehand,” she said. “It’s difficult to find workers in construction simply because it’s more likely to require prior experience. That makes sense in some instances, such as operating heavy equipment.”

New Initiative To Get On Ballot Would Increase Corporate Taxes and Give Rebate Of $750 To Most Oregonians

A new initiative, called “Oregon People’s Rebate” is looking to make a $750 rebate a reality.

The money would come from an increase in taxes for corporations. Organizers with the initiative say companies that make more than $25 million a year in Oregon would have to pay 3% tax, instead of near 1% tax they currently pay.

“We’re talking Comcast, Nike, Apple, corporations like that will have their corporate tax rate increased on their profits over $25 million. Oregon has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation. This would put Oregon in the middle of the pack,” explained Anthony Johnson, Political Director for Oregon People’s Rebate.

According to Johnson, the tax increase would generate about $3 billion in revenue. With about 4 million people living in Oregon, that would equal out to around $750 per person.

“$750 dollars means a lot to a lot of people. For instance, my parents are on a fixed income. They make like $1000 a month in Social Security, $750 is a nice benefit to them, that is like getting an extra payment. For a lot of people, it’s an extra rent payment. For a family of four, that’s $3,000,” said Johnson.

But is there a catch? Johnson says no.

“Opponents will say jobs will leave the state, they will have to increase prices, but that is really just propaganda because they don’t wanna pay the tax,” Johnson said. “A lot of these prices are set nationally, so what you buy from Nike or Apple in Reno, Nevada isn’t jacked up because Nevada has a higher corporate tax rate than Oregon has. So really, it benefits every Oregonian. It puts money in your pocket and it benefits small businesses. Corporations like Starbucks–they will have to pay an increase in corporate taxes, but your local mom and pop, your local small business coffee shop, they won’t have to pay that tax.”

Economists don’t agree. While prices of some items from major corporations may not change, Robert Whelan, senior economist at ECONorthwest says prices of other items will go up.

“Prices aren’t uniform across the country, a half-gallon of milk, in a survey that we did last year, was $2.76 in Portland. In Columbus, Ohio it was $1.66. Up in Seattle, $2.26. The idea that it’s not going to be passed on to consumers is fantasy,” Whelan said.

Regardless of the differing outlooks, it’s up to Oregonians to decide if they want this on the ballot.

Oregon People’s Rebate is currently collecting signatures so that it can appear on the ballot. They have until the first week of July to get enough signatures. If they hit the goal of 112,500 signatures, Oregonians will be able to vote on the initiative in November 2022.

Ride Share Scooters Come to Medford

Medford now has a new option for getting around the city. The ride-sharing app, Bird, has made its way to the Rogue Valley, and its electric scooters have been placed throughout the city for use both day and night beginning this past weekend.

The fleet of electric scooters were unanimously approved by the Medford City Council last November, and the pilot program will last 12 months with 50 scooters to start.

The maximum speed of the scooters is 20 miles per hour, and riders must be at least 18 years old. The scooters can already be found in Portland.

A statement from Bird reads:

“We are thrilled to bring micro-mobility options to one of the top 10 most populous cities in Oregon. Providing riders in cities like Medford with a fun and sustainable transportation option is core to our mission of reducing reliance on gas powered vehicles.”

To get started, download the Bird app on a smartphone and scan the QR code. The scooters must be ridden on streets, not on sidewalks. They cost one dollar to unlock, and 28 cents per minute after that. Bird hopes to increase the fleet to up to 100 scooters by the year’s end. https://www.bird.co/

Healthcare workers and emergency personnel will receive two free 30-minute rides per day for as long as the pandemic continues.

The Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries is offering grants for qualified historic cemeteries. The annual grants fund projects that preserve historic cemeteries.

Projects funded in the past include marker repair workshops, fencing, signs, interpretive panels and brochures, security lighting, access improvements, records management and more. Awards typically range between $1,000 and $8,000, but have been higher. Anyone may apply for a grant.

Projects must be related to historic cemeteries listed with the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries. Last year’s awards included projects in in Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Jackson, Klamath, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Polk, Tillamook, Umatilla, and Yamhill counties. The online grant application is simple to use and includes plenty of support.

A free, online workshop specific to this grant and how to use the online grant application system will be offered February 9, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Registration is required. Recorded trainings and tips are also online.

The Grants Pass Police Department has announced that the murder suspect in the death of 39-year-old Tobias Devin Johnson has been caught.

42-year-old Paul S. Dayton of Rogue River has been arrested and is being charged with Murder in the Second Degree and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. 

After clearing from the crime scene, Grants Pass Police have informed us that detectives continued working on leads and follow up on evidence throughout the night. After conducting the additional investigation, a name was developed for a possible suspect and detectives were able to determine the arrestee, Paul Dayton, was involved in this incident and obtained a search warrant for his residence in the area of Wards Creek Road in Rogue River, Or. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has “won again,” according to Jackson County Expo director Helen Baker — this time resulting in the cancelation of the “Bacon and Barrels” event scheduled for next month.

The event promised samples of bacon and distilled spirits, whiskey lectures, bacon-inspired appetizers, live entertainment, and a full bacon Bloody Mary bar. It was scheduled for Friday and Saturday, February 11-12.

Baker said that the event had to be halted because of staffing issues with multiple attached vendors. Regardless, Baker said that Bacon and Barrels has been a highly successful event and will return once the Expo can ensure it will be held at the standard people know and expect.

A former marketing manager for Nike says he was fired for refusing to provide his coronavirus vaccination information to a third-party company.

Dex Briggs claims Nike fired him after he declined to upload his vaccination status to a third party’s online verification portal.   Briggs was working at Nike’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Briggs is vaccinated but doesn’t trust the third-party company with his information. He and his wife were both reportedly previous victims of identity theft. Briggs had been an employee for Nike for 22 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

It is not clear how many employees have been terminated as a result of Nike’s vaccine mandate but it appears to be a “relatively small number”.

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